What is Tonfa ?
There is in principal only one kind of Tonfa although the shaft varies in shape from round to rectangular. History has also shown the butt ends to be pointed but this is extremely rare. The weapon attracts two kata in the Ryukyu Kobujutsu syllabus but because of its exposure with the police in the baton form it is a very popular weapon to practise with.
The weapon is used in pairs and is of wood, again red oak or white oak preferably in keeping with the Bo. The length of the weapon is also the same requirements as the Sai, about three centimetres past the elbow when gripped. The weight like the Bo is paramount to the efficient usage of the weapon.
Too light and it lacks power in Kumite, too heavy and the techniques lack speed and become ponderous. Again like the Sai there are three grips, Honte-Mochi (Natural), Gyakute-Mochi (Reverse) and Tokushu-Mochi (Special grip).
The usage is prevalent in the kata Yaraguwa. Tonfa is the practise of Uraken(back fist) and Hiji waza (elbow techniques) in open hand fighting. Good body movement like the Sai can make this weapon formidable, combining the speed it needs and generates along with the skilful footwork for evasion and attack.
Although there are stories of Rice millstone grinding implements and horses bridles etc. as being the origins of this weapon, these are merely coincidental. The weapons origins can clearly be traced back to China and be found in Indonesia and surrounding geographical locations.
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